Readers of this blog may know that there are a handful of recipes I can make by heart--a baguette, whole wheat bread, muffins, corn bread--although it's also true that I must still pay attention, as a previous incident demonstrates, wherein I accidentally used twice the amount of water for the baguettes. Still, I just ended up with twice the bread, so that wasn't really so tragic.
Anyhow, it's also true that certain cookies have a pretty basic formula, and you can play with that formula and come up with good cookies every time. For instance, shortbread. I once read a thorough disquisition on shortbread (in the late and still lamented Cuisine magazine), written by a Scot, and therefore pretty much the ultimate authority. Shortbread can be gussied up, although that's apparently heresy, but a true shortbread is basically this: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, 4 parts flour, as well as a pinch of salt. As in, 1 c. sugar, 2 c. butter (yes! a whole pound!), 4 c. flour. I have in fact made various nutty shortbreads, with chopped pecans or almonds, and also cacao nib shortbread. Also, chocolate shortbread. Shortbread is excellent and a stellar go-to cookie.
Last night, I decided I wanted some cookies, and began with a stick of butter, softened, and about 3/4 c. sugar, which I mixed together until creamy. Then I stirred in one egg and a splash of vanilla. Astute bakers may recognize this as a semblance of the Toll House cookie recipe. I threw in some whole wheat pastry flour, about a cup and three quarters, as well as some baking powder and salt. Because we had had polenta for dinner (which was delicious, but that's a whole 'nother genre of cooking), I also added about a quarter cup of dry polenta. Then, some chopped almonds and some cacao nibs. Baked at 375 for about 10 minutes.
I once knew someone who could make a cake without a recipe. I've never done that, but I'm pretty pleased with myself for making cookies by heart. And the cookies were delicious.